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FTA would bring benefits to both nations

(China Daily)

08:55, May 24, 2013

A free trade agreement between China and Switzerland would generate long-term benefits for both countries, Swiss Economy Minister Johann N. Schneider-Ammann said.

"The progress we have made in our bilateral FTA does call for a celebration," Schneider-Ammann told China Daily.

"The FTA will contribute to the sustainable expansion of trade and economic welfare," he added.

China and Switzerland launched the ninth round of negotiations on a free trade agreement in early May.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, the two countries have narrowed their trade differences in goods, services, rules of origin, trade facilitation, intellectual property and competition policy.

Both nations have made clear their intentions to end the talks and hope to reach a mutually beneficial and high-quality agreement as soon as possible.

Cai Fangcai, commercial counselor of the Chinese embassy in Switzerland, said that Beijing has attached great importance to economic and trade relations with Switzerland.

"Switzerland is located at the heart of Europe. As the nearest non-EU country to the European Union, it has specific geographic and competitive advantages," Cai said.

Cui Hongjian, director of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said that the FTA negotiations between the two countries will set an example for similar negotiations between China and other European nations.

As head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, Schneider-Ammann is one of the seven members of the Federal Council, Switzerland's Cabinet.

Schneider-Ammann said the visit by Premier Li Keqiang "emphasizes in my view the mutual importance and also the mutual dependency in our globalized economy".

"In general, I believe that Switzerland is a showcase for European diversity, a literal Europe in a nutshell, but also a showcase for one way to deal with diversity and to make it our strength," said Schneider-Ammann.

China and Switzerland have seen fast-growing bilateral trade and investments for a decade.

China has become Switzerland's largest trading partner in Asia while Switzerland is China's seventh-largest trading partner in Europe and its sixth-largest source of foreign investment.

"By reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers, and by increasing legal security and predictability, the FTA will improve market access for economic operators on both sides and enhance the competitiveness of both sides in the world market," Schneider-Ammann said.

The economies of Switzerland and China are highly complementary. He explained that the FTA will create ample opportunities for enhancing trade and investment between China and Switzerland, for example, in the area of technological cooperation.

"The FTA also is very beneficial for consumer product's industries, and consumers themselves, as an FTA enhances efficiency and competitiveness of the whole economy, provides a wider choice of products and promotes value added and income," he noted.

European experts said that the possible successful closing of FTA negotiations with Bern would be a Chinese signal to Europe that it is open to such deals.

Economic relations between Switzerland and China have grown at a breath-taking pace over the past 40 years since the first agreement on commerce.

"I am convinced that Swiss innovative products will remain competitive also in the Chinese market and help to keep the Chinese trade surplus with Switzerland at bay," Schneider-Ammann said.

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